As a Rinzai Zen practice center, Sosen-ji holds four Zen retreats, or sesshin, every year, one in each of the four seasons. The retreats in the winter and summer are usually four-day retreats, beginning on a Thursday and ending on Sunday, while the spring and autumn retreats are usually week-long retreats, generally running from Thursday to Thursday. Dates change from year to year, so please check the Upcoming Events page for actual dates of upcoming retreats.
The Japanese term sesshin may be translated as “Encountering Heart.” Sesshin at Sosen-ji are conducted in a manner similar to intensive meditation periods held periodically at traditional Japanese Zen monasteries. They are conducted in silence, except where talking is absolutely necessary. These retreats provide a formal, structured environment for dedicated practice. They are open to all, from beginners to long-time practitioners.
Part-time participation in retreats is available. Part-time is generally understood to mean coming for less than the full duration of the retreat. It can also mean coming for a day or days, but not staying at the Center at night. In either case, please let us know your plans in advance so we can effectively plan meals and allocate lodging. Those attending days but not staying at night are strongly encouraged to arrive in time to be seated in the Zendo by 5:30, as the structure is very formal and late arrivals are disruptive.
A typical day at a sesshin at Sosen-ji might be scheduled as follows:
5:00 AM Wake-up bell
5:30 — 7:00 Sitting and walking meditation, opportunity for interview with teacher
7:00 — 7:30 Formal breakfast
7:30 — 8:30 Personal time
8:30 — 11:00 Work practice
11:00 — 12:30 Sitting and walking meditation, opportunity for interview with teacher
12:30 — 1 PM Formal lunch
1:00 — 2:00 Personal time
2:00 — 4:00 Sitting and walking meditation, opportunity for interview with teacher
4:00 — 5:30 Dharma Talk by teacher
5:30 — 6:00 Formal dinner
6:00 — 7:00 Personal time
7:00 — 9:00 Sitting and walking meditation, opportunity for interview with teacher
9: 00 — 9:30 Personal time
9:30 PM Lights out
What to Wear
The zendo is heated with wood in the winter, so it is generally warm. In the spring and fall it will vary from very cool to very warm, depending on the weather. In the summer it can be quite warm in the zendo. During all seasons, walking meditation is held out-of-doors, weather permitting.
At all times, traditional sitting robes are welcomed, and will be generally comfortable. In the winter, in lieu of robes, loose-filling pants and a shirt and sweater work well, with a coat handy if the weather is very cold. In the summer, light, loose-fitting pants and a light shirt work well. Wearing of short pants in the zendo is discouraged. At all times, shoes which you can easily step in and out of will be enjoyed.
During the mid-morning hours there is generally a work period, during which time general light chores around the Center are performed, including landscaping, cleaning windows, splitting wood and other small projects. Please bring clothing suited to working outdoors in the season you plan to attend.
The Center currently has five dormitory rooms, each capable of sleeping up to four people, for a total of 20 beds. There is also a separate room for one of the retreat officers. Linens and blankets are provided. The rooms are heated in the winter and air conditioned in the summer.
Ample room for camping is also available.
The Center has separate bath and shower facilities for men and women, and both have handicapped access.
All meals are vegetarian, although not necessarily vegan. Eggs and dairy products may be included. Those with special dietary needs should contact the Center well before the start of the retreat so arrangements may be made to accommodate.
Reservations may be made by phone or email. Please try to finalize your reservation two weeks in advance of the start date in order to allow the staff to plan meals and accommodations properly. It is not necessary to attend entire retreats. Part-timers are welcomed, but please understand that preference for accommodations is given to full-timers.
Rides to and from the Raleigh/Durham (RDU) airport can be arranged in advance. Please contact the Center to make arrangements and to find out about any fees. Driving directions may be found on the Location Page.
How Much Does It Cost To Attend?
Please reserve your space at least two weeks in advance of a retreat by sending a deposit of one half the cost of your expected stay. The cost is $55 per night if you book by that date, and your deposit should reflect $27.50/night. After that date the cost will be $60 per night. You may pay the balance upon arrival. The Center accepts cash or check, or you may pay by credit card using the Paypal link below. Deposits are refundable up to one week before the start of the retreat.